Training Ground For A New Yellow Arrow

When the refurbishment of the Velodrome in Horta, a Barcelona neighborhood, was completed early this year, it was renamed in honor of Miguel Poblet, the first Catalonian (hell, the first Spaniard) to wear the Tour’s yellow jersey. Poblet was also the first rider of any nationality to win stages of all three grand tours in a single year. He went on to win 26 stages throughout his career, and proved his versatility with wins at Milan - San Remo, and multiple podiums at Paris - Roubaix. He could climb, he could sprint, and they called him “la Flecha Amarilla”, The Yellow Arrow. With the velodrome finding increased use and love from a new wave of cyclists (the cities fixed gear riders) perhaps a new Yellow Arrow will soon take flight.

Photographer & rider Brazo de Hierro visited the velodrome during and after its refurbishment to capture this rejuvenation, and Ferran Bartolomé (with translations by Neus Roura) helped us explore its past.

The Velodrome opened in August 1984 for the Track World Championships. It was built in just ten months, and its architects Esteve Borrell and Francesc Rius created a modern & functional facility, integrated with Parc del Laberint d’Horta, the landscaped gardens surrounding it. It was awarded the FAD prize for architecture in the same year.

Its track was designed by Herbert Schürman (part of a dynasty of Shürman track designers who’ve designed over 130 since 1925). It is 250m long, 7.6m wide, with a slope of 41º, and is constructed of 30,000 strips of Afzelia. This wood from Cameroon is most suitable thanks to its high density, hardness, and resistance to dampness and heat, key for an outdoor velodrome, particularly one placed on the slopes of Tibidabo and oriented to the Mediterranean sea.

With a capacity of 3,800 spectators it has hosted every kind of competition, from World Championships to regional Catalonian championships, but its highpoint was in 1992 as a venue during the Barcelona Olympics.

Most recently, its use had declined as it fell into disrepair and then disregard. Thankfully, this is changing - the recent boom in urban cycling has created a new generation of cyclist that’s interested in the competition the track offers.

Partly in response to this, in late 2014 the city council of Barcelona and the Catalan Cycling Federation initiated an ambitious refurbishment: the replacement of more than 2000sqm of wood and the reinforcement of the track’s skeleton-like supports.

The track’s mix of traditionalists and new wave cyclists now have fresh motivation to go fast and go hard on its smooth, sweeping curves. One day, empty grandstands could again be filled with thousands, witnessing records and feats that recall a hot night in August 1992.